Author: ROMINA MCGUINNESS
A FRENCH court on Tuesday sentenced a human trafficker to four years in prison for aiding the “unlawful entry, movement and stay of foreigners in France,” a local prosecutor said.
The 37-year-old Iraqi national, a repeat offender known to police for similar offences, was also banned from entering French territory for 10 years, Yves Dupas, the prosecutor of Dieppe, a port town in northern France, said.
The smuggler faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 30,000 euros (£27,000).
Mr Dupas said: “Seven suspected people smugglers and 18 migrants were arrested last week at a motorway rest area near Neufchâtel-en-Bray following a major police operation.”
One of the suspects was acquitted by the Dieppe court while charges against the five other men were dropped “on the basis of insufficient evidence”.
The men were caught helping some 18 people climb into lorries parked at a motorway service area for the night, and which they knew were headed towards the UK and northern French ports.
The drivers were not complicit in the scheme to smuggle the migrants into Britain, and had “no idea” that people had clambered into the back of their lorries overnight, Benoît Tilliez, a local police chief, stressed.
More than 60 soldiers took part in the police operation, Mr Tilliez added. The migrants’ nationalities, however, were not revealed to the press.
“For months now, human traffickers have been helping migrants and refugees sneak into the UK via northern French ports, including Ouistreham and Dieppe, which are becoming the new entry points into the UK,” Mr Tilliez continued, adding that police were working hard to dismantle local smuggling networks.
The, smaller, more discreet ports of Ouistreham and Dieppe became the new backdoors into Britain following the French government’s efforts to dissuade people from heading to the northern port town Calais, the former epicentre of France’s refugee crisis.
As elsewhere in Europe, illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East has fixated French public opinion in the last few years, fuelling the rise of far-right, nationalist parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year that his government would be both firm and fair on immigration, and introduced a tough new bill that tightened the country’s asylum rules.
The new legislation doubles to 90 days the time in which migrants can be detained, shortens deadlines to apply for asylum and makes the illegal crossing of borders an offence punishable by one year in jail and a hefty fine.